Back to school snack and lunch ideas

Back to school snack and lunch ideas

Is your anxiety building for back to school… because of lunches?

Real talk: For parents of young children, packing something reasonably nutritious, 5 days a week and that will be eaten is a huge challenge.

This post discusses the challenge that is lunch, and offers tips, snack and lunch ideas that have worked for me or other moms over the years. (Yes, dads pack lunches too, but they did not contribute their ideas).

Warning: This is a big-ass post for a big-ass problem.

Back to school broo-haha

We want packing lunches to be simple and easy, don’t we?

I’d like to make an argument for teaching your child to eat what’s available for lunch.

Convey to them that good quality, fresh food is a blessing. And I feel that our kids would benefit if more parents would apply ‘you get what you get, and you don’t get upset’ to lunchtime.

But the parental struggle is real.

First problem?

They are kids. Kids can be fickle. They love cherry tomatoes, they hate cherry tomatoes. Or fig bars, or whatever. They can be picky, especially if they have sensory issues. If they are like my son, they eat slooooowly.

Other issues:

The social aspect. Even if we have good eaters at home, at school, kids love to talk, to socialize. They would rather go play, or they are too shy to eat, or they compare their homemade food to their neighbour’s shiny sugar-laden cartoon-character-packaged items.

They’re at school. Our kids get only so much time, there is no food reheating available in most schools, and they are on their own with the containers, which we hope made it there in one piece and right side up.

No one watches them eat, because teachers, those wonderful humans who teach our kids, get a well-deserved break from them too. And of course, school staff need a break, because power struggles with kids are draining.

Parents. We as parents contribute to the power struggle around food, because we forget the proper division of responsibility.

More on that division of responsibility: You see, we are control freaks (I will raise my hand if you will), and that creates pushback. We want to control both what our kids eat, and how much they eat. But as the wise dietician and feeding dynamics authority Ellyn Satter always insisted, “Parents provide. Kids decide.” We choose what to offer, they decide what/how much to eat.

In other words, healthy lunches that can be consumed by a hurried, distracted little one are a tall order, but, if we want them to eat, and eat what we feel is right for them, we need to choose our battles. If we accept that some weeks cherry tomatoes get eaten, and some weeks they don’t, and we don’t start begging them to tell us what to pack, we respect the proper division of responsibility.

What to focus on

The main challenges as I see them are supplying food that travels well and eats easily, without resorting to processed foods (ugh, the plastic! The wrappers!) or too much sugar, as these items leave our kids with failing grades in nutrition and planetary stewardship.

Speaking of which, the containers and lunchboxes that are most easily accessible are neither health-supportive (aka they are toxic) nor sustainable.

They fail the environment, and our kids, who will inherit the earth. Also, they teach our kids that environmental considerations can wait, when they cannot. I beleive in leaving goods kids to the planet as much as a good planet for the kids.

Therefore, I will also list some better brands for lunch and water containers further down and link to them.

Let’s help each other:

If you’ve ever been stuck in a rut, can you commit to at least one more real-food sugar-free lunch each week?

Please comment below with a suggestion for a simple, balanced, minimally processed kids’ lunch.

Tips and strategies:

Keep lots of finger foods and sides in the house. This can help ensure something always gets eaten. Veggie spears, ready to eat proteins like tofu, cans of salmon, (peanut-free) trail mix, pumpkin seeds, and homemade gummies, homemade granola bars, mini muffins, prepped pumpkin French toast with pureed berries or applesauce, popcorn, cheese in cubes, goji berries, and a variety of fruit. Speaking of which…

Buy the small fruit. Small fruit is considered less desirable, and so is less expensive, but your littles will love small oranges, pears, apples, nectarines and bananas along with their berries and grapes.

Prep like a Kitchen Manager. On Sunday or the beginning of the week, clean and slice an assortment of crudité veggies like peppers and carrots, cucumber and celery. Cut up large fruit like pineapple and watermelon, boil a bunch of eggs. Mark the shells so you know which are cooked. Grab and go as you make the weeks lunches. Not into eggs? Cook and slice chicken breast early in the week to add to lunches all week. Make egg or chicken salad on the weekend with anything unused.

Dreading kindergarten without PBnJs? Most if not all grade schools have a no nut policy 😬 so many moms switch to sunflower butter for school and most kids don’t notice the difference. Chickpea and pumpkin seed butters exist too. Experiment at home making new butter blends, it’s easy!

Let them choose some items for the shopping list. Again, you oversee WHAT to eat, so you frame the choices – carrots or sweet potato this week? Even if you prep the food, this teaches them a lot of skills – being prepared, menu planning, meal balancing.

Let them help prepare the food. Using homemade dough, make your own pizza pockets or put other fillings they like. The slowly become more autonomous, and when they help make them, no complaints about what is in them. Making fruit roll-ups is easy too, and is a great way to use up any too-ripe fruit. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy – if they made it, they’ll likely eat it.

Let them pack the lunch bag. If you have a child at a “difficult” (aka growthful) stage, letting your little be more in control of herself can pay dividends. It may not always be perfectly healthy, but it’s passable and always gets eaten, and usually, left to their own devices, they end up with a balanced diet at the end of the week.

Try breakfast for lunch. Many kids find this fun and eat it up. You can make ahead batches of your healthier pancakes or French toast and they can be reheated and placed in a keep-warm container. Waffle batter can be stuffed with all kids of things – cheese, frozen veggie mix, bacon pieces. Waffles can be used as sandwich bread too.

Kids with no appetite need other cues. There are some kids that don’t ‘feel’ hungry. They are happy to starve until offered a cheese string. The food must have the right texture and colour and be easy to eat. Make it finger food. Bento boxes, rainbow coloured fruit skewers, happy face mini pizzas, pinwheel sandwiches. (If your child has no appetite, you may want to check their iron levels).

Picky eaters rarely get bored. These kids prefer to know what’s coming 🙂. Don’t stress, if there is variety to the diet overall, lunch can be repetitive without causing much harm.



What to put it in – Containers that won’t ruin your kids’ hormones – or the planet

Reusable (plastic-free) sandwich bags:

LunchSkins reusable bags/paper bags

MysGreen durable cloth sandwich bags with liners. These are made locally near me in New Westminster, but there are likely some local to you if you look.

Aluminum and plastic-free cling wrap:

Make your own beeswax wrap from cute fabric or buy Abeego beeswax wraps

Use parchment paper, shelf paper or waxed paper with ribbon or elastic bands

Stainless Steel lunch containers:

Non toxic and durable




Glass lunch containers:


Plastic-free Water Bottles that won’t result in metal-tasting water:

There are a lot of well-known stainless-steel water bottles out there, here are alternatives. 9 oz bottles fit well into most lunch boxes.

Lifefactory make a glass water bottle with a silicone sleeve, with straw, sport, and screw on top options.

Hydro Flask is for you if you can’t take glass to school or you want your beverage to stay insulated this brand of water bottles are very good. They also make nice insulated lunch bags.


Feeding formula

Many parents don’t know what macronutrients their kids need, or somehow end up giving sweetened foods all day because starchy carbs, refined grains, sweets and dairy products tend to be very easy (WAY TOO EASY!) to build in or include without a thought. To avoid this, save the granola bars and yogourt for emergency times, like when they are starving after swimming lessons.

*When planning lunch, include quality proteins and fats and get carbs from produce*

New to planning lunch?

Here are two ways to think about planning lunches:

      1. As macro portions:

2 x colourful high-fibre carbs / 1 x complete protein / 1 x healthy fat

      2. As food group portions:

1 fruit         +         1 vegetable      +          1 protein food        + 1 healthy oil / fat


Not sure what to include?

Examples of colourful, high-fibre carbs – fruits 

Grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomato, small oranges, pears, apples, bananas, sliced nectarines or peaches, kiwi, mango spears, cucumber/pickle

Examples of colourful, high-fibre carbs – vegetables 

Peppers, carrot, celery, cauli rice, zucchini, kale, lettuce, beans, sweet potato, pumpkin puree, spaghetti squash noodles, shredded cabbage, baked cassava fingers

Examples of quality protein foods

Organic chicken slices, peas, grass-fed beef, eggs, non-GMO sprouted tofu, wild salmon patties, lentil soup, roasted chickpeas, protein powder, shellfish, pate, turkey burgers

Examples of healthy fats

Avocado, coconut oil, omega oils in sauces (tomato, pesto) or homemade dressings or homemade dips (salsa, guacamole), seed/nut butters (sunflower, coconut, almond), gouda and quality cheese, hummus


1 month of mini meals – a possible lunch meal plan

Would you rather not think about it? Try leftovers, or, I made a possible plan for a medium hungry child here:

Week 1

Salad with chicken

– Try kale and quinoa salad with cubes of grilled chicken (or beef) and peaches.

Rice paper salad rolls

– Fill with veggie strips, lettuce, sauce, tofu or shrimp. Cubed watermelon.


– Lentil pasta in a homemade pesto sauce with pureed veggies/herbs. Peach.


– Thin sliced meat and cheese, lettuce. Wrap in collards or tortillas. Nectarine.

Savory muffins

– Can be full of veggies, protein (ground turkey?) and cheese. Watermelon cubes.

Week 2

Salmon salad

– With celery and fresh herbs. Serve with rice crackers and sliced apples.


– Your favourite way. Take cubes off skewers if you like. Cucumber discs. Pear.


– Spaghetti squash pasta in a keep warm container with meat sauce. Grapes.


– Minestrone with homemade crackers. Apple, or pear in a protective case.


– Sprouted grain tortillas with bean & cheese. Guac & salsa for dipping. Grapes.

Week 3

Greek salad

– Tomato, cucumber, pitted olives, chicken, avocado, healthy dressing. Orange.


– Vegetable potstickers. Veggie sticks. Tempeh or sausage. Small orange.


– Add frozen fruit  & whey powder while cooking, put in insulated container, top with omega oil.

Power smoothies

– Purple fruit mix, pureed greens or squash, whey or soft tofu or hemp seeds, flax oil.

Picnic lunch

– Veggies & dip, cheese & crackers, olives, pickles, sausage/tempeh. Orange.

Week 4

Thai noodle salad

– Sunflower-lime sauce, mung bean noodle, carrot, cukes, bean sprouts. Mango.

Lox and cream cheese

– Serve on rye crisps with cherry tomatoes and cucumber spears. Pear.

Slices of French toast

– Make with egg, milk, pumpkin puree and spice, stand the slices in apple sauce.


– Cheese sauce healthified with pureed cauliflower and nutritional yeast. Pear.

Healthy meatloaf

– Make it delicious, and hide zucchini and organ meat inside! Serve with applesauce.


Healthy Snacks, and leftovers as after school snacks

Avocado chocolate pudding

Powerballs / Blissballs

Sweet potato toast, healthy zucchini or banana bread with almond butter

Beet hummus with veggie sticks and seed crackers

Homemade fish patties or turkey meatballs

Greek yogourt with berries and trail mix


Chia pudding

Vegetable soup

Healthy gummies

Easy English muffin or tortilla pizzas

Stuffed peppers or baked potatoes

Made ahead pancakes with sunflower butter and blended berries

Mexican layered dip


The occasional packaged item or junk food, if your child eats well and is healthy


So there you have it.

Tips for meals, snacks, a feeding formula, a meal plan, a bunch of strategies, even what to pack it in.


I hope this post helped you somehow. If you read it, you are already an AMAZING and CARING PARENT!

and you have an idea, please comment and share thoughts.


Much love, parents – remember, you are doing great!!








Is my Poop Normal? And, what does Bristol have to do with POO?


14That quote above is a little overused, but I think the picture is funny.

They say that food can look like the body part it helps. You know, walnuts, full of omega 3s, look like brains, and kidney beans look like, you know. And those laxative little figs up there, look like our friend the poop emoji, don’t they? Yes, poop. I want to talk poop today.

If you are anything like me – same generation, same taste in music – you probably know and love yourself some 90s Bristol.

Is My Poop Normal?

Now, I don’t know if you share my sense of humour. But, if you are anything like me – same generation, same taste in music – you probably know and love yourself some 90s Bristol.

Some things that are famously from Bristol in the late 90s include Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, and loads of Drum n Bass artists like Roni Size. (Earlier, there was Bananarama. Later, there came Stanton Warriors.)

What you may not know is that 90s Bristol is the original home of grading our POO.

Yep, you heard right.

This topic may be uncomfortable, (or you might think it is Awesome!) but either way it’s so important for you to know what makes a healthy “poop” because it can tell you a lot about your digestion.

And if your digestion is off, this could be an indication that something else is going on that you need to address.

Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)


You already know that your poop can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.

I know some folks may get constipation or have diarrhea when they eat something that “doesn’t agree with” them or when they’re super-nervous about something.


And what about fibre and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop. Actually fibre is good for some folks, not so good for others…but it is good for the all-important gut microbes.

Speaking of which, if they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your poop.


Here’s a trivia question for you:

Can you name the poo grading scale I was hinting at earlier?


Did you even know there is an “official” standard for poop? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

And no, it is not the “Bristol Massive”, lol.


Meet the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.

You can see the chart here.


Bristol stool chart. Image credit: Kylet, 2011
A lovely visual from Medical News Today



The scale breaks down poop by type. Seven different categories range from type 1 – which is very constipated, to type 7 – which is diarrhea.

We want to be middle of the road, thank you very much.

1 – Separate hard lumps

(What I affectionately call rabbit plops, aka very constipated).

2 – Lumpy and sausage-like

(Slightly constipated)

3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface



4 – Smooth, soft sausage

(Normal – extra points if you can coil it like the emoji)

5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges

(May be lacking fibre)

6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges


7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces



Poop Emoji

Other “poop” factors to consider

You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poop health.


  • Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.
  • What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.
  • The consistency is more than just soft or hard, too. The degree of stickiness is informative. No one wants to wipe and wipe, to be frank. We want a smooth clean exit. When your little sphincter snaps shut, we want things to be basically clean, and for the wipe to be a formality.
  • And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest. If it is too dull (yellowish) or too sandy, that can be a sign of oxalate dumping. If it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.
  • But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.


What do you do when you have “imperfect” poo?


Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that?

Once in a while, things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s A-OK.

If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath. If you know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that. If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.

Probiotics are beneficial microbes often taken as dietary supplements, and in fermented and cultured foods to help make our digestion run smoothly, but really, probiotics can be found all around us. Probiotics are in and on us, in what we refer to as our microbiome, and they are in the forest air, the dirt at the farm, and in the water at the lake too.

The diversity of our microbiomes is diminishing with each passing generation, in large part because we interact so much less with forest air, farm dirt and lake water, and also because we kill off these great bugs every time we take medicine, eat fast food, and sanitize our living space. One of the main reasons probiotic supplement are so popular, is that this lack of diversity is connected to many modern ills, and we hope to mitigate that risk.

Luckily, it is not blind hope. A 2017 review of 45 major probiotic studies concluded that probiotic consumption amongst healthy adults “can improve immune, gastrointestinal, and female reproductive health”, and that probiotics do improve the concentration of beneficial bacteria in the gut.


Probiotics can even help us achieve BMs that resemble that cute, smiley poop emoji.

Well, those are not quite the words from the study, but you get the idea. Probiotics can digest some of the otherwise undigestible fibre in your sushi roll and foster a healthy gut environment, having a positive impact on several health outcomes.


So, we are clear that probiotics are legitimate stars, so be sure to get enough.


Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:

  • First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, and unless you have a very irritated gut, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fibre in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
  • The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.


These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poop!

Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from poop issues for too long before seeking help.





Helpful recipe

Dairy-free super-simple Coconut Milk Probiotic Yogurt

Serves 6

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

probiotic yogourt starter, or try 2 probiotic capsules,


  1. Open the starter or probiotic capsules and empty contents into the blender. Blend with coconut milk.
  2. Transfer to a sanitized glass jar (make sure it’s not still hot – you don’t want those probiotics to die).
  3. Store it in a warm place, about 30 C, for 24-48 hours. If it’s not thick enough for you, you can let it ferment for another 24 hours.
  4. Add your favourite yogourt toppings, and store the rest for up to a week in the fridge.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science, but some strains will turn milks into yogourt and some not so much. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or especially of probiotics.





What is your face telling you?

What is your face telling you?


As a health detective, I take in all the information I can get about you. Your face is a wealth of information! That is one reason I highly encourage you to wash your face before we have a session in person or online via webcam.

If you are curious what I see, read on.

Let’s take it from the top…



Low iron, low thyroid, low iodine, and/or low EFAs (ALA and LA fatty acids) can make hair dry.

If head and body hair are thin or sparser than usual, it may be the thyroid.

Losing your hair could also be a sign of the autoimmune condition alopecia areata.

A red, scaly rash and hair loss could mean low Biotin (B7) levels

Loss of hair from the head, falling out quickly, is often caused by low iron, or thyroid problems. Check iron levels. If you drop below 40 on a ferritin test, that’s very likely to make your hair fall out. You may need to get your numbers above 80for the hair to grow back in well.

Hair that has greyed rapidly is a sign of certain genetic SNPs and of hydrogen peroxide produced from stress 

Hair falling out can be a sign of stress or recent pregnancy

Brittle hair can be a sign of malabsorption or deficiency in selenium or iron or fatty acids

Hair that breaks before it can grow out may be a sign of a need for more silicon and healthier collagen

Thick, stretchy/bouncy hair may mean good collagen/connective tissue health, adequate protein, adequate silica, vitamin C, iron, selenium, and iodine

Shiny hair that is not greasy may mean adequate intake and balance of healthy fats

Dry hair can be a sign of low vitamin C

Dull, brittle, and loose hair can be a sign of protein malnutrition

Hair that has suddenly gone curly can mean damage / illness

Dandruff can be dry skin, sensitivity to hair products; and skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or eczema. The overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus can also cause dandruff.



Receding hairline can be traction alopecia, hormone changes like at menopause or high bad testosterone

Cystic acne near the hairline can indicate an allergic response to hair products

Hollow, deflated temples can be a sign of cancer, serious illness or muscle wasting

Extensive skin wrinkling can indicate low vitamin K2, and omega 3 deficiency

11’s between the brows or numerous deep furrows and wrinkles may mean a higher risk of cardiovascular disease



Shrinking, thinning eyebrows, especially on the outer third, or right on the inside, is a common sign of low thyroid or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Losing your eyelashes or eyebrows could be a sign of the autoimmune condition alopecia areata

Drooping lids might mean myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune condition

Soft yellow spots, particularly on the eyelids are usually cholesterol-filled lesions called xanthelasmata. These may show a higher risk of heart disease. A 2011 Danish study of nearly 13,000 patients found that about 4 percent had the spots and that those patients were nearly 70 percent more likely to develop hardening of the arteries and almost 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack over the next few decades than patients without them.

A lupm on the lid, if you have oily skin tendencies, may be a blocked oil duct

A drooping eyelid or side to your face might be one of the first signs of stroke, or or brain or neural issues



Bleeding retinas can be a sign of leukemia or diabetes

Burst blood vessels in the eyes can be from a sudden flare of high blood pressure

Kinky, twisted vessels in the retina can mean an impending stroke

Bulging eyes may be a sign of hyperthyroidism (high thyroid)

Different sized pupils (Horner’s syndrome) can indicate a neck or brain issue, like an aneurysm

Yellow where the whites of your eyes should be could mean hepatitis, liver, gallbladder or pancreas trouble

A white ring around the iris can mean high cholesterol

A dark ring around the eye can indicate lung problems

Dry eyes can be connected to Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus, or Shogren’s syndrome, or an EFA deficiency

Gritty, granular crystals or “sand” in the eyes can be a sign of oxalate dumping



Dark under-eyes can be a sign of anemia or low iron, celiac disease or allergies. The purple-blue hue can be water or un-oxygenated blood under the surface of thin skin there.

Puffy, tired-looking eyes with luggage under them could be a red flag for chronic allergies, which dilate blood vessels and cause them to leak, or a reaction to makeup

Sunken eyes, loss of orbital fat pads can mean undernourishment, anorexia, or dehydration

Puffy eyes can also be a sign of low iodine.

Puffy or swollen under-eyes can mean depression (crying), or hormonal shifts

Puffy under-eyes can mean kidney disease / low albumin levels.



Part of the face won’t move? Could mean stroke or Bell’s Palsy

A sallow, pale, deflated skin texture can be a sign of serious illness

An overly red face or broken capillaries can be a sign of hypertension or histamine intolerance

Acne and a mix of oily and dry skin indicates a poor diet, possibly lacking EFAs, zinc and vitamin A

Long hair growing from ears and nose may mean frequent exposure to dust particles

A pale face could be a sign of anemia

Brown or grey blotches on the face are melasma, usually from a pregnancy or hormone surge

Red or white acne-like bumps on your cheeks could mean you are low in essential fatty acids (ALA and LA, found in flax oil) or/and vitamins A and D

Pale or bluish lips or inside the mouth or lower eyelids, instead of pink, could indicate heart or lung disease, or anemia.

Certain infections can trigger facial rashes.

A butterfly-shaped rash across the cheekbones and over the bridge of the nose can be a sign of Lupus.

A change in complexion to a more yellow tone could indicate liver disease, or may indicate that you are eating too many carrots / carotenes!



Dry, flaky, scaly, cracked, bruised, or bleeding skin can mean protein malnutrition

Dry skin can be a sign of low omega fatty acids, poor fat absorption, low vitamin A, or low iron

Skin rashes can be signs of malabsorption or deficiency in selenium

Glowing, shiny, plump, radiant skin is often a sign of high estrogen.

Red spots, and/ or bad skin can be a sign of low vitamin C

Dry, flaky skin could be a sign of dehydration or a more serious problem that affects sweat gland function, such as hypothyroidism.

Drawn, dry, patchy, dull and thin skin is often related to low estrogen



Peri-oral dermatitis (a rash around the mouth), eczema, psoriasis and rosacea often indicate some greater immune system imbalance.

Pucker lines around your lips can be a sign of past or present smoking

Cracks at the sides of the mouth often reveal a B vitamin deficiency, but can be iron, zinc, B vitamins like niacin (B3), riboflavin (B2), and B12, or even protein

Cracked lips might mean dehydration, EFA deficiency, or a reaction to steroids



Swollen, red gums may be a sign of heart disease.

Sore or bleeding gums or bad skin can be a sign of low vitamin C

Mouth ulcers and cankers can be signs of Crohn’s disease or Celiac.

Discoloured teeth can be sign of malabsorption or deficiency in selenium

Bleeding, receding, dry gums, dry mouth, and wiggly teeth are all typical oral symptoms of patients with diabetes.

A white tongue can mean oral thrush/Candida yeast

A red tongue can mean B-12 or folate deficiency



Acne along the jawline can be a sign of hormonal imbalance, especially cystic acne

Unwanted hair, particularly along the jawline, chin, and upper lip, could be a symptom of PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome.

Skin tags, such as on the neck, are a common warning sign of diabetes and blood sugar imbalance.

A thick neck with small jaw and receding chin are all more likely to have sleep apnea, a disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops while you sleep

A lump in the throat of swollen neck could be swollen lymph nodes or a thyroid problem

A swollen neck or dry, flaky skin can be signs of low iodine

Good posture means a happy life, slouching may indicate poor self esteem

Poking neck posture often means long hours of sitting

Alopecia areata can cause patches in a beard



Wrinkles where the sun doesn’t hit can mean cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis risk

Clusters of red bumps on the upper arms could indicate celiac disease or gluten sensitivity

Red or white acne-like bumps on arms, thighs, or bum could mean you are low in essential fatty acids (ALA and LA, found in flax oil) or/and vitamins A and D

Little red spots called cherry angiomas may be s sign of toxic bromine exposure

Moles, especially ones with irregular borders, can be a sign of melanoma.

Liver spots can be a sign of blood sugar imbalances/surges

Skin rashes and brittle nails can be signs of malabsorption or deficiency in selenium

Ridged, cracked, spoon-shaped, or pale nails can mean protein malnutrition


What a list, eh?

And that’s not even everything! At a physical exam, we can learn a lot more from your temperature, blood pressure, weight, demeanour, gait, body composition, nails, feet, posture, and many more signs, but there are some that are easy to check and give your nutritionist information about you.

I also gives you an idea if there is anything you should look into more closely.

Now go wash your face, get a mirror, and have fun!





Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.


Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.



Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down. The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active. Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right. But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course. Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine, zinc or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested*



Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.



Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.


Which leads us to…


Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.



Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night. 


Recipe (Selenium-rich) Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4


½ cup Brazil nuts (pictured)

2 cups water

nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

½ cup chia seeds

¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup


Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth. (I don’t strain, I keep it all!)

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.


Serve & Enjoy!

Tips:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries. Also, buy your Brazil Nuts in a place with high turnover, getting them fresh is a MUST! They should taste creamy, mild and delicious.


* About Thyroid tests:  if you feel really bad and have many signs of thyroid imbalance, get more than your TSH (the standard) tested if possible. Knowing the status of your T4, T3, Reverse T3 as well as checking for anti-thyroid antibodies such as TPO can completely change your options and radically change how you feel and what you do next. If you can, speak to a functional doctor or naturopath for these tests.



Personalized Nutrition is everything

Everyone has a unique biochemistry.

We also each have a unique microbiome.

Our metabolism is therefore unlike anyone else’s.

And recently, a study finally proved it.

I have always loved the idea of biochemical individuality, since the first time I was introduced to it years ago.

There was a FABULOUS study that was published in 2015 in the journal CELL that dug into the topic really well.

The brief of the study, which was titled Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses, stated the following:

People eating identical meals present high variability in post-meal blood glucose response. Personalized diets created with the help of an accurate predictor of blood glucose response that integrates parameters such as dietary habits, physical activity, and gut microbiota may successfully lower post meal blood glucose and its long-term metabolic consequences.

What this says in essence, is that everyone (they had a sample size of 800 people) reacts to food differently, but that by taking into account everything they learned about people, their gut health and diet and exercise habits, they could give them diets that suited them and allowed them to avoid the major consequences of metabolic problems like diabetes.

That’s right.

By eating in a way that suited them, that was different for each of them, they were ABLE TO NOT SUFFER DIABETIC COMPLICATIONS.

The individualized dietary advice was based on factors like their microbiome, eating patterns, blood work and body composition.

This was not a group of US Americans with vastly different backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures, it was a study of a slightly more cohesive group, Isrealies.

Meaning even in a more homogeneous group, there were significant differences.

David Zeevi, Tal Korem, Niv Zmora, …, Zamir Halpern, Eran Elinav, and Eran Segal authored the Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses study

The predictions based on the information gathered was sufficient to prevent blood sugar imbalance in the subjects using vastly different approaches.

It goes to show, one size doesn’t fit all.



IF and TRE – Eating on the clock

Intermittent Fasting (IF) and Time Restricted Eating (TRE) are here to stay.

And for good reasons:

Intermittent fasting is a way to get the benefits of a regular calorie reduced diet without restricting what you eat, just when you eat it.

Intermittent fasting reduces both weight and fat, and can improve blood sugar and blood lipids. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure and some markers of inflammation. Many animal studies show improvements in brain health too.

While these benefits of IF are similar to those with calorie reduced diets, IF has some key advantages including being easier for some people to stick with and it might help people eat more intentionally.

There is also evidence that IF preferentially reduces fat while preserving muscle and may help our bodies become more “metabolically flexible.”

More research is needed to really understand long-term benefits of IF on the body and brain, as well as which IF approach is optimal for different people and different health goals.

IF is one way that women in menopause can manage their hormonal weight gain. Just remember, the studies show that women often do better on a relatively short IF schedule (like 12 hours is enough to get benefits!).

So no reason not to start.

I like to make myself butter teas and Bulletproof type coffees when I am not quite into fasting.

Butter tea can help you mimic fasting while you transition away from meals towards fasting


They help me to get closer to a fasted state. Using foods they consist of mainly fibre, water and fat (the types of foods that would be on a keto diet) is sometimes called being on a fasting-mimicking diet.

We can explore that idea in future posts.



As promised, the science:


Anton, S. D., Moehl, K., Donahoo, W. T., Marosi, K., Lee, S., Mainous, A. G., … Mattson, M. P. (2018). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 26(2), 254–268.

Antoni, R., Johnston, K.L., Collins, A.L. & Robertson, M.D. (2016). Investigation into the acute effects of total and partial energy restriction on postprandial metabolism among overweight/obese participants. Br J Nutr, 115(6), 951-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515005346.

Brandhorst, S., Choi, I. Y., Wei, M., Cheng, C. W., Sedrakyan, S., Navarrete, G., … Longo, V. D. (2015). A periodic diet that mimics fasting promotes multi-system regeneration, enhanced cognitive performance and healthspan. Cell Metabolism, 22(1), 86–99.

Carter, S., Clifton, P.M. & Keogh, J.B. (2016). The effects of intermittent compared to continuous energy restriction on glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes; a pragmatic pilot trial. Diabetes Res Clin Pract, 122, 106-112. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2016.10.010.

Clifton, P. (2017). Assessing the evidence for weight loss strategies in people with and without type 2 diabetes. World Journal of Diabetes, 8(10), 440–454.

Fontana, L., & Partridge, L. (2015). Promoting Health and Longevity through Diet: from Model Organisms to Humans. Cell, 161(1), 106–118.

Harvie, M., & Howell, A. (2017). Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects—A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7(1), 4.

Headland, M., Clifton, P. M., Carter, S., & Keogh, J. B. (2016). Weight-Loss Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intermittent Energy Restriction Trials Lasting a Minimum of 6 Months. Nutrients, 8(6), 354.

Horne, B.D., Muhlestein, J.B., Lappé, D.L., May, H.T., Carlquist, J.F., Galenko, O., Brunisholz, K.D. & Anderson, J.L. (2013). Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 23, 1050–7.

Horne, B.D., Muhlestein, J.B., & Anderson, J.L. (2015). Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 102(2), 464-70. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.109553.

Hussin, N.M., Shahar, S., Teng, N.I.M.F., Ngah, W.Z.W. & Das, S.K. Efficacy of fasting and calorie restriction (FCR) on mood and depression among ageing men. J Nutr Health Aging, 17, 674–80.

Keogh, J.B., Pedersen, E., Petersen, K.S. & Clifton, P.M. (2014). Effects of intermittent compared to continuous energy restriction on short-term weight loss and long-term weight loss maintenance. Clin Obes, 4(3), 150-6. doi: 10.1111/cob.12052.

Li, L., Wang, Z., & Zuo, Z. (2013). Chronic Intermittent Fasting Improves Cognitive Functions and Brain Structures in Mice. PLoS ONE, 8(6), e66069.

Mattson, M. P., Moehl, K., Ghena, N., Schmaedick, M., & Cheng, A. (2018). Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 19(2), 63–80.

Michalsen, A. & Li, C. (2013). Fasting therapy for treating and preventing disease – current state of evidence. Forsch Komplementmed, 20(6), 444-53. doi: 10.1159/000357765.

Patterson, R.E. & Sears, D.D. (2017). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annu Rev Nutr, 37, 371-393. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634.

St-Onge, M.P., Ard, J., Baskin, M.L., Chiuve, S.E., Johnson, H.M., Kris-Etherton, P. & Varady, K.; American Heart Association Obesity Committee of the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; Council on Clinical Cardiology; and Stroke Council. (2017). Meal Timing and Frequency: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation,135(9), e96-e121. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000476.

Stockman, M.C., Thomas, D., Burke, J. & Apovian CM. (2018). Intermittent Fasting: Is the Wait Worth the Weight? Curr Obes Rep, 7(2), 172-185. doi: 10.1007/s13679-018-0308-9.

Teng, N.I., Shahar, S., Manaf, Z.A., Das, S.K., Taha, C.S. & Ngah, W.Z. (2011). Efficacy of fasting calorie restriction on quality of life among aging men. Physiol Behav, 104, 1059–64. LINK:

Teng, N.I., Shahar, S., Rajab, N.F., Manaf, Z.A., Johari, M.H. & Ngah, W.Z.W. (2015). Improvement of metabolic parameters in healthy older adult men following a fasting calorie restriction intervention. Aging Male, 16, 177–83.

Tinsley, G.M. & La Bounty, P.M. (2015). Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutr Rev, 73(10), 661-74. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv041.

Varady, K.A., Bhutani, S., Klempel, M.C., Kroeger, C.M., Trepanowski, J.F., Haus, J.M., Hoddy, K.K. & Calvo, Y. (2013). Alternate day fasting for weight loss in normal weight and overweight subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J, 12, 146.

Witte, A. V., Fobker, M., Gellner, R., Knecht, S., & Flöel, A. (2009). Caloric restriction improves memory in elderly humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(4), 1255–1260.

When science caught up to fasting

Fasting goes mainstream

Obviously, religious people and kooks have been fasting since forever, so why is it suddenly trending? If you’re like me, fads smell like trouble.

Background: History and animal studies

Back in the 1980s and 1990s U.S. studies looked at effects that reducing smoking had on heart disease risk. Interestingly, the risks seemed to reduce more in members of the churches of Latter Day Saints / Mormons than in other people.

Researchers wanted to know why, and that’s when they found a possible connection with fasting.

Beyond smoking, researchers started looking specifically at people who fasted.

In the early 2000s, they found that people who reported routine fasting (for religious reasons or not) had lower risk of heart disease. People who reported fasting had lower blood sugar levels, body-mass indices (BMIs), and risks of diabetes.

You eat for this period of time, you fast for the other. Pretty simple.


When it comes to animal studies, it’s easy to restrict when an animal eats, so there are a lot of studies on the health effects of IF in animals.

Animal studies show a lot of health benefits of IF including longer lives and reduced risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels due to buildup of plaque), metabolic dysregulation (includes type 2 diabetes), and cognitive dysfunction (ability to learn, remember, solve problems). They also have lower levels of inflammation and generally live longer.

So, let’s dive into the health benefits of IF.

Intermittent Fasting for Weight and Fat Loss

For people who have excess weight, even if they seem to be in good health, losing weight and fat is associated with reducing the risk of diabetes, improves their healthy lifespan, and increases function of both the body and mind.

After about 5-6% of a person’s body weight is lost, even more health benefits are seen – lower blood lipids (LDL cholesterol and triglycerides), better blood sugar management (lower glucose and insulin), lower blood pressure, and lower levels of inflammation (C-reactive protein).

These benefits are seen with both calorie reduced diets and with IF.

When it comes to weight and fat loss, a typical calorie-reduced diet can work. By consistently reducing the amount ingested by 15-60%, people with overweight and obesity lose weight and fat. This is called “continuous” calorie reduction because one is continuously reducing what is ingested – at every meal and snack, every day.

Calorie reduced diets can include eating smaller servings, changing some foods eaten for low calorie substitutions, and/or cutting out some snacks/desserts every day.

By calorie-restricted eating is hard, and hard to maintain. The best weight loss diet is actually the paleo diet. Because it focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods, fibre-rich veggies, satiating fats, and muscle-building proteins, paleo is the best weight loss diet around. It is easier to feel full than on the calorie-reduced diet, and to be healthy while doing so.

However, not everyone likes cutting out empty calories and eating nutritious foods like game meat, broccoli, and liver, so those who love the pleasures of food may find both of the proven weight loss diets not worth the sacrifice. These people want to eat sugar, drink alcohol, and eat cheese sometimes. For these people, IF is a better option.

Intermittent fasting isn’t a continuous reduction, but rather an intermittent one. It allows you to eat what you want, but only during certain times. It’s an alternative to calorie reduced diets. IF is a way to “diet” without “dieting,” so to speak.

Both continuous calorie reduction and IF have similar weight loss results.


Intermittent fasting has a few key benefits!

Many studies prove what we know already: it’s really difficult to sustain a (continuous) calorie reduced diet for a long time.

This is the reason why many people prefer intermittent fasting – it gets similar weight and fat loss results, plus it’s easier for many people to stick with.

This makes IF a great alternative for anyone who wants to lose weight and fat, but has difficulty sticking with a reduced calorie diet.

Other advantages to IF over calorie reduced diets are that it can help people eat more intentionally (and less mindlessly). Also, some studies show that IF makes our metabolism more flexible so it can preferentially burn fat, while preserving the muscles. This is a great benefit because that can help improve body composition in people with excess weight.

In the next post on this topic, I will talk about specific ways the IF supports heart health.



Going DUTCH – all about the dutch HORMONE test

The dutch hormone test (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones) requires you to collect urine samples on card stock/paper, dry the paper out, and send it to the Precision Analytical lab for testing.

Dutch Hormone Test


The great news is that it’s better than a blood test, and it will soon make things to do with your hormones much clearer. Knowing (if you are in menopause, have high cortisol or adrenal fatigue) is waaay better than not knowing, IMO!


I got my test kit!

Here’s some things I have learned.

In an ideal scenario, you’ll have lots of good instruction on the dutch from your health care practitioner – the one who ordered the testing, such as a functional MD, holistic nutritionist (update – this is now out of scope of practice) or naturopathic doctor – ahead of time, and know WHY you’re doing it.

If you take 5-HTP, Tryptophan or L-tryptophan, SAMe, tyrosine, L-Dopa, DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA), macuna, quercetin / EMIQ or St. John’s Wort, consult them before testing.


Open this package at home, take a look through the package, and check your calendar. Check to see when there are a couple of days when you can collect the urine specimens in the convenience of your own home, preferably.


Dutch Complete contents: return envelope, commercial invoice, requisition form, instructions, the 5 urine collection devices and a plastic bag to hold them.


[I say preferably, because you CAN take the samples on different, non-sequential days, and you CAN do it out of the house, but you must let the urine-soaked papers fully dry before folding them up, and I’m not sure you want to do that anywhere outside your own home, especially since it is important to not be overly hydrated, to ensure the urine is concentrated…AKA, smelly. Ew.]


Detailed instructions


When picking a day to start, you’ll count back at least 72 hours (3 days) ahead from a good day to be home drying pee papers, and then you’ll be sure to stop taking any supplements that might affect your results, (like 5-HTP or quercetin, and others, and if your practitioner agrees), 72 hours prior to your test.

(Note: You can keep taking birth control, necessary mood regulators, some hormones, and creams or patches, so check the guidelines carefully, and get assistance.)

This step is important, especially because you may need to plan your meals.

You’ll want to avoid Avocado, Bananas, Eggplant, Kiwi, Butternuts, Pecans, Walnuts (and associated nut butters), Pineapple (and pineapple juice), Plantains, and Plums for 72 hours prior to your test, if possible, and Caffeine during the testing.


Timing your food/water and sleep does matter. There are specific instructions for supplements and caffeine, even water intake.


For the Complete, there are 4 urine samples to take and 5 papers to do it with.

You either get an extra, bonus urine sample, to take at night if you wake up, or a do-over urine paper, in case of a mistake.

Think of a place to dry the pee papers, where they won’t get licked by the dog, or noticed by company.


When you have collected all samples, put the urine test papers (seen on right in their own mini baggie) into this human specimen bag.


For those with brain fog, knowing what to do in advance, and reading the instructions a few times might be good. Set your alarms, do what you got to do.

If in doubt, ask your health care practitioner for help.


Requisition form side 1 – you’ll need to know what testing is being done (OAT? Complete?), and what (if any) hormones or other prescriptions you take.


Fill out the form – it has 2 sides – so the lab will know about you.

Requisition form side 2 – you’ll be telling them a bit about what you suspect is happening, what you hope for, what symptoms you have, and other things about your current health.


After you’ve collected and accomplished all the necessary steps, put the now-dry urine sample papers into the little bag, and then put them in the human specimen bag, and then put it and the requisition form, all in the floppy plastic envelope.


Put everything (except the Commercial Invoice) into this and seal it up.


Complete and then slip the mailing instructions for customs into the clear pouch on the outside of the plastic envelope. For some people (I see you, receptionists!) this step will be elementary, but some people have never done this kind of thing (like, never used snail mail!).


Fill this Commercial Invoice out and place it in the outside pouch on the return envelope.


It’s quite simple, but if you want more guidance about timing and meds, the company has handouts online and makes great videos.

If you normally take 5-HTP, Tryptophan, SAMe, Tyrosine, L-Dopa, DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA), Macuna, Quercetin or St. John’s Wort, do not stop them unless you consult with your health practitioner and they counsel you to do so.


Precision Analytical have informative videos – go check them out!


I hope that was helpful!!

And I hope whatever ails you gets better soon!



Should you go plant based? Part 2

close up photo of burritos

Ethical veganism

There is no BEST diet from a health standpoint.

But, that does not mean there is no best diet for YOU.

I am sure there is. It’s just that it might not be what is best for me or your sister.

As I pointed out in the last post, the quality of the food one eats is more important than any label. So no matter what type of diet one follows, it should be a top-quality, nutrient-dense diet.

Furthermore, it is possible to be deficient in many nutrients very easily when one avoids animal products, because they are the most nutrient dense foods by far.

Therefore, if a person wants to be a vegetarian, I will ask “for health reasons?”.

If that’s the case, I might suggest a diet high in plants, but also one with meat and seafood, and then suggest metabolic typing to figure out what the balance should be.

Sometimes a bit of this and a bit of that is more harmonious than JUST ONE thing

I feel the best diet should be determined by testing their biochemical nature, their individual metabolic type.

If it turns out that they are suited to eating lots of carbs, and they prefer to avoid animal products, they can be put onto a health-supportive, nutrient-dense, whole-food, plant-based diet with my full support.

If the person is insistent that they want to be a vegetarian for ethical reasons, however, that might override anything their biochemistry might suggest.

I may point out that the work I do is to improve health. Therefore, if we discover it suits you to eat a more protein-based or mixed diet, I will have a hard time to support a vegetarian diet.

We take the earth in hand when we make daily choices.

That does not mean that your dream of being respectful to the planet and its creatures need go out the window. I can help you to support your health and your ethical consumption of food, and your protection of the planet. I will meet you where you are.

If it suits you, I’ll fully support it, and help you to offset the potential for nutrient deficiencies, but if it does not, or if you are in anything but the best shape to do it, I won’t.

In terms of offsetting the potential for nutrient deficiencies on a strict vegan diet, this is something generally impossible without lots of time and access to many resources, or lots of money and access to many resources. In other words, being extremely well nourished as a strict vegan is the purview of the privileged. It is a luxury.

women s white button up long sleeved shirt

I feel it is important to mention that, as following a professionally balanced, high-quality, strict vegan diet and enjoying those benefits should then be seem as a privilege, a badge of having more, not of being more. I think it is important to realize that there are many people for whom being a healthy vegan is not an available option.

In my opinion, it should not be seen as something that makes one superior, but something one does with gratitude.

For some, vegetarianism comes easily. They are slow oxidizers and don’t do well on diets high in meat. They may also find that a lot of fruit and vegetables does wonders for many aspects of their health, and their skin glows.

A rainbow of vegetables certainly should be a large part of the diet of most people, and a very large part at that, but again, it is about what you tolerate. For some people, a carnivore diet is the most healing diet they can follow, at least for the time being. We are all different, and we are all worthy of health. I will support every person in their quest for the best health.

Compounds like fibre, polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids are highest in plants, so it makes sense that we should aim to have a healthy and inclusive diet, one with the widest variety of foods that our bodies can handle.

The art and science here is to discover what it is we handle.

That is why I bring to subject to the topic of Biochemical Individuality.

Catch the post by the same name where I will explain how we figure out if being a vegetarian is a good idea for you.



How IF and TRE work – Fasting, simplified

woman eating bruschetta
Chow down!

HOW Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating help our bodies and brains

How do we explain the health benefits that IF has on our bodies and brains? One way is that a “metabolic switch” is flipped during fasting.

While continuous calorie reduction and IF have many of the same health benefits, IF might have a different biological mechanism at play. Some research suggests that I.F. might “flip” a metabolic switch.

Here’s how it works.

After we eat our bodies use carbohydrates (e.g. glucose) from our food for fuel. If there is extra left over, then it’s stored as fat for future use.

With fasting, just as during extended exercise, our bodies flip from using glucose (and storing fat), to using that stored fat and ketones (made from fats) for fuel. Sometimes called the “G-to-K switch,” (glucose-to-ketone) the ability to flip what our bodies use as fuel (between glucose and ketones) is called “metabolic flexibility.”

photography of woman eating

It’s thought that we, and many animals, evolved to have this ability to survive short periods of fasting from when we were hunter-gatherers. There were times when people didn’t have a lot to eat, but they still needed to survive and think clearly enough to successfully hunt and gather food. This can explain why our bodies and brains don’t necessarily become sluggish when we’re fasting. It makes a lot of sense, although it has yet to be tested in current-day hunter-gatherers.

This metabolic switch can explain some of the health benefits of fasting.

When our bodies prefer using fats for fuel, the body starts burning our stored fat. This is how IF helps with overweight, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. When the body uses fat for energy this decreases the amount of fat in the body. Reduced fat reduces weight, and health benefits from weight loss (like lower blood pressure and insulin resistance) are felt.

This “flipping” of the metabolic “switch” happens after the available glucose, and the stored glucose are depleted. This is anywhere from 12-36 hours from the last meal, depending on the person.

At this point the fats in our cells start getting released into the blood and are metabolized into ketones. These ketones then go to fuel cells with “high metabolic activity” – muscle cells and neurons.

Since the body is burning fat and using ketones to fuel the muscles, IF can preserve muscle mass. Some studies of IF show that it preserves more muscle mass than regular calorie reduced diets do.

The other high metabolic activity cells fueled by ketones are neurons (in the brain and nervous system). IF helps our brains because when our neurons start using ketones for fuel, it preserves brain function and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is very important for learning, memory, and mood.

glasses woman person face

BDNF also helps enhance synaptic plasticity (changes in our brain that help with learning and memory) and allows our neurons to better resist stress. These are all improvements in brain function, and some animal studies also show improvements in the structure of the brain too. For example, new neurons are produced in the hippocampus (the part of the brain important for short- and long-term memory) in animals who IF.

According to Anton, 2018:

“In these ways, events triggered by the metabolic switch may play major roles in the optimization of performance of the brain and body by IF.”

Whew! That’s a bunch of good science, I guess sis knows a bit about this stuff.

Here she is (I guess it works!).


Next time  I blog on IF, I’ll sum up the conclusions, and share all the science links I found on all of this.